The Washington County Board of Supervisors voted to ask the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (PMRNRD) to assess a dam south of Herman that several people have said needs maintenance to ensure it does not fail.
The action by the county board comes after the Herman Village Board approved a motion at its Nov. 5 meeting also asking the PMRNRD to assess the dam. The assessment by the PMRNRD comes at no cost to the county or village. The supervisors' vote doesn't require the county to take ownership or maintain the dam, only for the PMRNRD to assess the site.
"Our goal is to find a permanent way of being able to service whatever needs to be done for this area," Supervisor Jay Anderson, District 5-Blair said. "The NRD will come out and look at that and inspect it at no charge to us and figure out if there's anything that needs to be done with it."
The dam is on private property near County Road P21 just south of Herman School Road. Though there is an easement which allows for the county and Village of Herman to come onto the property to perform maintenance, the easement does not specify maintenance as any one entity’s responsibility or duty.
Herman resident Ann Loftis, whose mother-in-law owns the land the dam is on, said the family is seeking a solution to the maintenance problem. She said maintenance on the dam has been an issue before since no government entity has in their records who would take care of it.
"This wasn't a typical property dam. It doesn't bring any particular value to the land owner, which is my mother-in-law, who is 87 years old," she said. "It brings no value to the farm itself, but the family's request, and my mother-in-law's interest is protecting Herman because they remember the floods."
During the county board's Oct. 8 meeting, Herman resident Bill Shamburg, who rents land near the dam, said it would be a "disaster" if the dam broke. He said the dam was built because every time it rained the south side of Herman would flood.
The dam, which is decades old, is supposed to be a dry dam that slowly lets out water after a rainfall. Through the summer and into the fall, Shamburg said that the dam was slowly filling up with water several feet high due to a partially clogged drainage pipe. The pipe follows CR P21 and the Herman School Road through the village under U.S. Highway 75.
"We saw it full of water, and we're really afraid that it would break," Loftis said. "It didn't, and you'll be glad to know that it drained out."
Though the dam is now dry, aside from mud, Loftis said it's in her family's interest to do what is best for Herman.
"If they were doing what's best for the farm, it'd be worth more if the dam wasn't there," she said. "But that doesn't help the community … That's their interest is getting the maintenance whoever does it."
The board's request for the PMRNRD to assess the dam doesn't require it take action on maintenance. After assessing the dam, the PMRNRD would report to the county and Village of Herman on what the district finds.
Ted Japp — PMRNRD board representative for all or parts of Washington, Burt, Dakota and Thurston counties — said the PMRNRD couldn't look at the dam until a government entity requested the district to do so.
"We might invite the (Natural Resources Conservation Service) to take a look at it also," Japp said. "There may be government funding available depending on what we find and so forth, so there are some things that can be done in that regard. First and foremost, we can't promise anything until we take a look at it."